By now, half six of And Just Like That…, the much-discussed HBO Max reboot of Intercourse and the Metropolis, has made the rounds on social media, and primarily for one factor: the premise of Diwali. The Hindu competition and its portrayal on the present was the topic of each dialogue and dismay, principally with Indians and South Asians like myself bemoaning the blatant tokenism and cliche-ridden narrative.
The episode itself is known as “Diwali,” however there may be little display screen time dedicated to the celebration in any respect. Which may have been permissible, however the onscreen dealing with of Diwali, Hinduism, and Indian tradition in these notably temporary moments is painfully lazy.
Every small trope associated to Diwali was manifestly mishandled, beginning with the undeniable fact that Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) someway does not know what Diwali is, which I discovered extraordinarily exhausting to consider contemplating she has lived in New York for many years. She’s additionally in her fifties, a seemingly cosmopolitan citizen of the world, and a author.
Then there’s the sari debacle, which was nearly too tough for me to sit down by way of. Whereas accompanying her realtor/good friend Seema (Sarita Choudhury) to a retailer in Soho, Carrie turns to her — apparently well-meaning — and says dreamily, “These garments, this vacation…I must know all the pieces all about it.” Carrie’s curiosity in itself is wholly regular, however her ignorance just is not. Seema, in flip, offers a foundation rationalization of the Pageant of Lights, which I might like to suppose most individuals would be capable to. Seema is pushed into the function of instructor and mouthpiece, present to teach Carrie on tradition and range. It appears inaccurate to have diminished a individual of colour to this function, patiently drawing a image for a white character who ought to maybe know higher. Traces like “It is cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation,” are a testomony to the present’s greater function of bringing its characters into the twenty-first century. And but, the means they’ve chosen to take action is grossly misled.
The encounter solely will get worse when the garments which can be being examined are incorrectly referred to by each characters. The “saris” Seema and Carrie are drooling over (truthful sufficient), will not be really saris in any respect (problematic). As a substitute, they’re lehengas, a completely totally different model of Indian conventional put on. Sure, saris are extra ubiquitously identified round the globe, a time period freely utilized by many and deeply related to Indian tradition. Certain, it will be simpler for the viewers to immediately perceive what a sari is. However wouldn’t it have been so exhausting to introduce one other aspect of Indian tradition, to make use of the proper phrase for a piece of clothes?
All through, it seems that the writers simplified the present’s foray into range, offering the simplest and surface-level depiction of the tradition at hand. The chance to maneuver away from stereotypes was actually current, however deeply disregarded.
However maybe the biggest error on this episode was the storyline round marriage. I’m properly conscious that organized marriages and the idea of marriage usually are embedded in Indian society, with nice significance traditionally positioned on the establishment. However for too lengthy, this idea has been conveniently plucked by Western media and plopped into the narratives of South Asian characters and tradition. The concept a self-sufficient, 50-something skilled like Seema has to cover her single standing from her mother and father is just a drained extension of this stereotype. That she felt the must invent a pretend white boyfriend named Dennis is telling sufficient.
Sarita Choudhury performs Seema in “And Just Like That..”
Credit score: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max
It appears an excessive amount of to ask that a progressive portrait of an Indian girl be painted onscreen, one during which her mother and father do not insist that she must be ‘accomplished’ by marriage, and as a substitute take delight in her profession and personhood. Fortunately, Seema’s mother and father (Ajay Mehta and Madhur Jaffrey) do appear to prioritize their daughter’s happiness above all else, however marriage goes hand-in-hand with their notion of what her happiness ought to look like. How welcomingly disruptive it will have been to point out an Indian household pushing towards these well-worn concepts.
‘The Workplace’ episode ‘Diwali’ remains to be a grasp class in illustration
The factor is, I used to be genuinely intrigued by this episode, how they might concoct a narrative of such an essential competition, the garments Carrie would inevitably put on, and the impression of Indian tradition And Just Like That… would current. I used to be impressed by the inclusion of well-known Bollywood monitor “The Humma Track,” and the Indian put on chosen, which was aesthetically pleasing to say the least.
Nonetheless, the undercurrents of the episode had been too cringe-inducing to disregard. To me, it is largely neglect that resulted in an episode like this — neglect to do the naked minimal in terms of analysis and subsequent writing. And what in the end appeared was a shallow visible of Indian tradition, doubtless leading to a lot of viewers not understanding what a sari is in any respect.